Jewels in the Crown of the Beautiful Shawnee National Forest
Garden of the Gods and Rim Rock/Pounds Hollow Recreational area are two must see locations on the eastern side of the Shawnee National Forest of Southern Illinois. Both are located just off Karbers Ridge blacktop 30 minutes from Harrisburg. Garden of the Gods consists of spectacular overlooks and views of unusual rock formations. One formation, known as Camel Rock, and will be featured in the America the Beautiful Quarter Program representing Illinois in 2016. Garden of the Gods has been listed in “USA Today” as one of “Ten Great Places to Get Nature on Film”. There are two main trail systems. The “Observation Trail” is a .25 mile stone path featuring some of the most well known formations. The view of the 3300 acres of beautiful old growth forest from this trail is breathtaking. Sunsets are especially beautiful. This is an interpretive trail that features interesting history about the geology of this area. The Wilderness area is over 320 million years old. The sediment rock in this area is over 4 miles deep and the fractured bedrock has created some interesting rock formations that represent various objects.
There are other trails which interconnect for plenty of hiking. For those people who want even more extensive hiking River to River Trail enters the east end of the park from High Knob and proceeds south below the rock formations before bearing west again. River to River Trail is a trail system which stretches across Illinois from the Ohio River to the Mississippi.
While not as well known as Garden of the Gods, Rim Rock/Pounds Hollow Recreational area is just as awe inspiring in its own way and consists of a wonderfully scenic trail of exceptional beauty and historic values. To early settlers this unique formation was known as “the Pounds” an old English term meaning “enclosure”. The trail leads past remnants of a stone wall built by prehistoric Native Americans, an observation platform and steps descending through huge rock formations, narrow rock passageways via stone steps to the floor below. Ox Lot Cave, at the bottom, is a massive rock overhang where 19th century loggers kept their oxen and horses. At the back of the overhang is a natural spring which never goes dry. Continue hiking to the beautiful 28 acre forest lake known as Pounds Hollow Lake, or through massive sandstone canyons back to the top of the escarpment.
This area is known for its spectacular show of spring woodland flowers along both its upper and lower trails. The upper trail is paved and less strenuous for hikers. The lower trail has a dirt surface and leads along the base of the bluffs before looping back to the parking lot.
Enjoy Southern Illinois!